GuidesSurveysClosed-ended questions: Overview, uses, and examples

Closed-ended questions: Overview, uses, and examples

Last updated

20 March 2024

Author

Claire Bonneau

Reviewed by

Hugh Good

Do you value the simplicity and elegance of a yes-or-no question?

These simple questions—known as closed-ended questions—are the fundamental tools you can use to collect quantitative data.

When creating a survey or questionnaire for your customers or team, you need to choose the right question style to collect the data you need. If you’re looking to make the analysis stage easier, closed-ended questions are a great option to explore.

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about closed-ended questions, including the different types, use cases, and best practices to gain easy-to-analyze data you can use to improve your business.

What are closed-ended questions?

Closed-ended questions encourage the reader to respond with one of the predetermined options you or your team have selected. The most common answer formats for closed-ended questions are yes/no, true/false, or a set list of multiple-choice answers.

Closed-ended questions aim to direct the responder to answer your question in a standardized way that produces controlled quantitative data about your target audience.

For example, the question, “Did you enjoy the latest feature update to our platform?” is a closed-ended question that requires either a “yes” or “no” answer. It will give your team a quick understanding of the overall customer opinion of the update.

Over time, researchers can use closed-ended questions to collect statistical information about your brand or product. These quantitative insights can be incredibly valuable when making future brand decisions, as they give your team a better understanding of your target demographic, their purchasing trends, and more.

Closed-ended vs. open-ended questions

Depending on the type of information you want to collect from your survey or questionnaire, there are two overarching categories of questions you can use. Each style of question offers unique benefits and needs to be used correctly to produce accurate and helpful insights that your team can use.

Closed-ended questions

Closed-ended questions collect quantitative data and encourage the participant to answer from a list of predetermined options. They help teams collect easily measurable data about a specific metric they’re tracking. Closed-ended questions are rigid, focused, and data-driven.

An example of a closed-ended, data-driven question:

On a scale from 1 to 5 (1 being horrible, and 5 being excellent), how would you rate your recent visit to our store?

Open-ended questions

Open-ended questions collect qualitative data and encourage participants to provide subjective, personal responses based on their experiences and opinions. They help your team collect a more nuanced understanding of a subject, e.g., a particular pain point or positive experience related to a product or service.

These questions are exploratory, encouraging participants to write sentences or paragraphs to share their thoughts.

An example of an open-ended, personalized question:

Tell us about your most recent visit to our store.

Important note: The most effective surveys contain closed and open-ended questions to collect a diverse range of data. Understanding the core benefits of each question style is necessary to pick the right question style for your survey. From there, your team will collect information from your survey to produce helpful insights to improve your work and future projects.

Types of closed-ended questions

To collect the most accurate data, you need to understand the different types of closed-ended questions. Before you begin your next round of research, consider the following types of survey questions to ensure you collect the correct type of quantitative data.

Dichotomous questions

Dichotomous questions (based on the word “dichotomy” – to be divided into two mutually exclusive categories) refer to questions that have only two possible answers.

Questions that can be answered with “yes/no,” “true/false,” “thumbs up/thumbs down,” or “agree/disagree” are examples of dichotomous questions. They can be incredibly effective for collecting quick, simple participant responses.

While dichotomous questions do not offer the participant options for nuanced responses, these questions are incredibly effective for getting snapshot data about a specific tracking metric.

Examples of dichotomous closed-ended questions include:

  • Have you heard of [X product] before? (Yes or no)

  • You have bought a product from [X brand] in the last six months. (True or false)

  • How was your recent call with our sales team? (Thumbs up or thumbs down)

  • The price of our premium service tier matches its value. (Agree or disagree)

Rating-scale questions

Rating-scale questions use a pre-set scale of responses to encourage participants to provide feedback on their experiences, opinions, or preferences.

Commonly used in customer experience surveys, the goal of this type of closed-ended question is to collect quantitative data that is standardized and easy to analyze.

Depending on the content of the question you are asking, examples of types of measures you can use for rating questions include a 10-point rating scale, the Likert scale (from strongly disagree to strongly agree), or a rating based on level of satisfaction (very dissatisfied to very satisfied).

As a great way to collect more nuanced information that does not require rigorous analysis, examples of rating-scale closed-ended questions include:

  • [X customer service worker] was supportive during our call. (Rate from strongly agree to strongly disagree)

  • On a scale from 1 to 10, (1 being very unlikely and 10 being very likely), how likely are you to recommend our products to a friend?

  • How satisfied were you with the latest software update? (Rate from very satisfied to very dissatisfied)

Multiple-choice questions

Multiple-choice questions offer the participant a selection of possible answers, but, unlike questions at school, there are no right or wrong answers.

Designed to tread the line between getting more nuanced participant answers but still being easy to analyze and interpret, well-written multiple-choice survey questions must include answers specific to the information you want to collect.

This easy-to-understand survey question style often has a higher engagement rate. Integrating multiple-choice questions into key sections of your survey is a great way to collect information from your target audience.

Examples of multiple-choice closed-ended questions include:

  • How did you hear about our company? (Answers could include online, from a friend, on social media, etc.)

  • Which restaurant interests you most for the company Christmas party? (Answers would include the restaurants being considered)

  • How long have you been using our products or services? (Answers could include month or year ranges)

Important note: In some cases, adding “Other” as a possible answer option for multiple-choice questions may be appropriate if your provided answers do not cover all possible responses. If you choose to do this (which is very common and can be an effective way to collect additional insights), you need to be aware that the question is no longer truly closed-ended. By adding the option to write out their answer, the question becomes more open-ended, which can make the data harder to analyze and less standardized.

Ranking-order questions

Ranking-order questions are a style of closed-ended question that asks the participants to order a list of predetermined answers based on the type of information your team is looking to collect. This is a great tool for collecting information about a list of related options.

Used to gain insights into the preferences or opinions of your participants, these types of questions are still structured and easy to analyze. Additionally, the advantage of using ranking-style closed-ended questions is that you not only discover which option is most in demand but you also gain insights into the overall ordering of all possible options.

Examples of ranking-order closed-ended questions include:

  • Rank the following product features based on your preferences. (From most likely to use to least likely to use)

  • Organize these possible new logos. (From your favorite to least favorite)

  • Rank the following product brands. (From most appealing to least appealing)

Closed-ended questions pros and cons

Because closed-ended questions produce a certain type of data from your target audience, it is important to understand their advantages and disadvantages before using them in your next survey.

Closed-ended questions can improve your survey because they:

  • Are quick and easy to fill out

  • Offer standardized responses for easy analysis

  • Increase survey response rates

  • Naturally group participants based on responses

  • Are customizable to the specific metric you are tracking

  • Avoid incorrect and irrelevant responses

  • Reduce participant confusion

Closed-ended questions can be limited because they:

  • Can lack nuance and personalization

  • Produce responses with limited context

  • Can offer choices that alienate participants if not written correctly i.e., there is no response option provided that accurately captures how they think or feel

  • Are highly susceptible to bias

  • Can encourage participants to “just pick an answer”

  • Cannot cover all possible answer options

When to use closed-ended questions

Like any other data-collection tool, there are specific instances where using closed-ended questions will benefit your team. Consider using closed-ended questions if you need to collect data in the following scenarios:

Surveys with a large sample size

If you’re sending your survey to hundreds or thousands of potential respondents, using closed-ended questions can be a helpful way to increase response rates and simplify your data.

Survey response rates can vary greatly, but even receiving a 10% response rate based on a sample size of multiple thousands of people can result in a ton of analysis work if you ask open-ended questions.

Using well-written, closed-ended questions is a great way to tackle this problem while still collecting meaningful insights that can improve your products and services.

Examples of scenarios where relying on closed-ended questions can be beneficial are:

  • Sending a customer-experience survey to people who purchased from you in the past month

  • Collecting demographic information about one of your brand’s customer personas

  • Surveying your top users about a recent software launch

Quick feedback or check-ins

If you are looking to collect survey results to get a general idea of the current situation, using closed-ended questions can help improve your response rate.

Perfect for employee check-ins or post-purchase customer experience surveys, closed-ended questions can give your team a quick snapshot into the particular metric you’re tracking.

As a great tool for assessing employee satisfaction or doing a quick “vibe check” with your target audience, asking a short closed-ended question like, “Are you happy with the service you receive from our team?” is a great way to collect fast feedback your team can act on.

Time-sensitive inquiries

Do you need to collect some data but you’re on a tight timeline? Improve your response rate and get the insights you need by making your survey quick and easy with closed-ended questions.

Examples of time-sensitive situations perfect for closed-ended questions are:

  • Asking about a customer’s experience after they connect with your support team

  • Quickly surveying your team about their current workload before a meeting

  • Checking for possible tech issues during the first 24 hours of a new feature launch

Measuring customer satisfaction

If you’re looking to gain a better understanding of your customer’s opinions and preferences about your brand, your products or services, or newly launched features, well-written rating-scale questions can be incredibly helpful.

When paired with a few open-ended questions to collect more personalized answers, rating-scale and ranking closed-ended questions can help you collect quantitative data about your customer’s shopping experience, product opinions, and more.

Analyze closed-ended question data with Dovetail

Closed-ended questions are a helpful tool your team can use when creating a survey or questionnaire to collect specific, easy-to-analyze quantitative data.

As a great tool for quick check-in surveys or increasing your engagement rates on larger-scale projects, well-written closed-ended questions can give you incredibly helpful data that can be turned into actionable steps by insight software like Dovetail.

Created as a one-stop shop for everything to do with customer insights, Dovetail is a great solution for your research analysis. You will benefit from fast, accurate, and compelling results that will guide your brand’s future decisions.

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